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WINTER BARN

by Deborah Digges


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A light slant snow dragging the fields, a counterwind
where the edges of the barn frayed worlds,

blurred outside in. This is what my love could give me
instead of children -- the dusk as presence, moth-like,

and with a moth's dust-colored flickering stall by stall,
some empty now, certain gone to slaughter, driven north

in open trucks over potholed, frozen roads.
Such a hard ride to bloodlet, blankness, the stalls' stone

floors hosed out, yet damp, the urine reek not quite
muffled with fresh hay, trough water still giving back lantern

light like ponds at nightfall. Sheep lay steaming, cloud
in cloud. The barn cat slept among last summer's lambs, black

faced, apart, relieved of their mothers. We made our way,
my dogs and I, to say hello to the Yorkshire sow

named Kora, who heaved herself up to greet us,
let the dogs lick her oiled snout smeared with feed

while I scratched her forehead. Kora of the swineherds
fallen with Persephone, perhaps in hell a bride's only company.

Prodigal, planetary, Kora's great-spined, strict-bristled body
wore the black mud of a cold, righteous creation,

burrs and mugwort plastered at the gates.
Days her smell stayed with us. The last time we saw her

the plaque bearing her name was gone. Maybe she would be mated.
Sparrows sailed the barn's doomed girth, forsaken,

therefore free. They lit on rafters crossing the west windows
that flared at sunset like a furnace fed on stars.




Deborah Digges is an associate professor of English at Tufts University. Her most recent book of poems is Rough Music(1995).

Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; April 1998; Winter Barn; Volume 281, No. 4; page 62.

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